(Not Exactly) Total Recall: Liveblogging Doucet at the Oliphant Inquiry (Day 2) - Macleans.ca

(Not Exactly) Total Recall: Liveblogging Doucet at the Oliphant Inquiry (Day 2)


9:13:34 AM
Gather ’round, Oliphantiacs, as ITQ begins the (realtime) tale. It was a dark and stormy night — well, technically it’s morning, although you wouldn’t know it from the bleak grey of the sky. It certainly qualifies as *stormy*, however, which has made for waterlogged – and, as alway, umbrella-less – liveblogger, but she won’t let that stop her from savouring the second day of showstopping testimony from Fred Doucet. Honestly, it’s probably better than the idyllic sunshine of yesterday has been blown away by dark skies; it makes it much easier to resist the urge to play hookey and spend the afternoon skipping stones across the Ottawa River, although it’s going to make those power walks the various legal teams like to take through the grounds distinctly less enjoyable.

Anyway, I know, I know – you’re not here for the weather report. The hearing hasn’t yet gotten underway, but the witness – who I’ve not caught smiling yet – is already in his seat at the front of the room, and the various legal means are chatting amongst themselves. Meanwhile, the journalists – hey, that’s me! – are wondering whether we can expect something more in the way of substantial answers from Doucet than the various permutations of “I can’t recall” that marked yesterday’s performance.

9:29:19 AM
Just to remind y’all, tomorrow – that is, if they manage to finish with Doucet today – we get our first former prime minister: Kim Campbell will take the stand.

9:33:24 AM
And here we go!

Wolson, once again not one for small talk and idle pleasantries, greets the witness with a succinct good morning and then gets right back to business — the business of Bitucan, to be precise, for which he was apparently paid $90,000, of which he had – and, as of this morning, still has – no recall. Wolson gently presses — really? No memory at all? — but takes a different tack in his next thread; salaries in government, he suggests, would have been considerably smaller than today. “Somewhere in the low hundreds?” Lower than that, Doucet tells him, but he doesn’t agree with Wolson’s subsequent suggestion that a single payment of $90,000 – or $7,500 a month another number that has surfaced – would have stuck out, considering that he had just left for the private sector.

Doucet still can’t remember any specific details of the payment, but seems to not not recall quite as vehemently a retainer of $5,000.

9:39:52 AM
Well, that’s a switch: According to Doucet, he ‘vividly recalls’ a conversation — possibly with Elmer MacKay — in December, 1999 – right after the first fifth estate broadcast – which he was strongly encouraged to invite Schreiber and his wife to his home. Unfortunately for Doucet, MacKay, according to Wolson, will say that the call didn’t come from him. O, cruel memory. Anyway, whoever made the suggestion, Doucet vagues up when asked about the purpose of the meeting – it was, he says, likely to discuss Schreiber’s role as a “valued client”, and may have also touched on Mulroney, but – he doesn’t have any further recollections.

9:44:17 AM
Apparently, as per Doucet, may have also provided Schreiber with a little unsolicited media management advice: given what Doucet then suspected was a newfound willingness on the part of Schreiber to chat with the press – off camera, and behind the scenes – he says he might have told him that it would be unwise to leak information to the CBC; it could result in Schreiber – or others – getting hurt.

9:47:15 AM
More conversations that Doucet can’t recall, although in some cases, he acknowledges that he *now* knows some things that he didn’t know then. He does give a rousing defence of his note-taking skills — the memo on that December meeting with Schreiber, he says, was written not more than ten minutes after he left: five pages of handwritten notes, reduced to one page of type. Wolson seems — well, not suspicious, exactly, but definitely wants to nail down the details of exactly how this discussion arose, considering that it occured during a social visit by Schreiber and his wife.

According to Doucet, the private conversation with Schreiber lasted for 45 minutes to an hour: his wife, he recalls with an attempt to look endearingly rueful, even came down to scold him for being antisocial.

9:55:25 AM
More about that meticulously documented chat between Doucet and Schreiber – Wolson is going through the memo-to-file, point by point, noting in passing that even with only ten minutes having passed before commiting it to paper, Doucet was nevertheless able to recall complete sentences. “I didn’t write dwn everything,” Doucet notes – just the things that “struck” him. He also reported to Mulroney that he had met with Schreiber, and chronicled the discussion – particularly the bit about Mulroney having “nothing to do with the sale of Airbus”.

Oh, and Schreiber was also gleeful at the propsect of discovering a real, live *current* prime minister – Jean Chretien, I guess – as well as Kimberly Prosst, the lawyer — Doucet has “zero doubt” that Schreiber made “quite a crude” comment about her. Nothing about bank documents, though, which Schreiber claims also came up during the meeting — he just doesn’t recall.

Ooh, I hope we get to the part of the memo that suggests Schreiber was hard up for cash, and selling his story to reporters, getting $40,000 for one interview.

10:03:55 AM
A very interesting point by Wolson — at one point, Schreiber – as per Doucet – laments the fact that his and Mulroney’s business association didn’t go as far as it could have, as far as the former pm acting as an international representative; if Mulroney *had*, in fact, been acting as such, why the use of that particular tense?

Also, when did he actually have the time to write up the memo — while Schreiber and his wife were still there? Right as they left? And was any of this planned in the first place, or was this just a regular social occasion between friends — who hadn’t been in touch for years, and one of whom suspected the other of leaking scurrilous information to the CBC, while simultaneously suing the network?

According to Doucet, he has “considerable experience” in taking notes — a holdover from his days in government.

“I was a note-taker,” he says. He remembers *making* the notes, but not, apparently, the events described. Oh, and as for letters — like the ones that came up yesterday afternoon — that is completely different. Damnit, Jim, he’s a note-taker, not a letter-writing-recollecter.

Can you imagine if they’d had BlackBerries back then?

10:10:37 AM
Oliphant made Doucet laugh! A mild joke about the colour of his black book, which might have been green, or white, “or blue”, as per the judge’s suggestion.

10:15:02 AM
On to the next meeting between Doucet and Schreiber, which left “unfinished business” — particularly the “Luc Lavoie issue”, as well as the matter of “memorializing” the “arrangement” between Mulroney and Schreiber. “Trouble was brewing,” he retroactively prophesies. He was in government, he could see bad things “coming down the road” – media agendas, potentially damaging leaks – and he wanted to be “helpful” to his former boss and on-again-off-again client.

“I’m not suggesting some nefarious scheme,” That could be Wolson’s motto, because he’s really *not*. He’s just asking questions.

10:19:17 AM
Oh, now this – this I was wondering about. Did Doucet attempt to use “some sort of electronic recording device” to tape the conversation in January? No, no — “if I had,” Doucet points out, “I would have been duty-bound to submit it to you.” Which is true, except it’s not like he would have known that at the time, right? Really, why *didn’t* he record these meetings, if only to transcribe to file, if he was concerned about his memory? It’s not like these meetings were in the 1980s — there were mini digital recorders in 2000.

Another subtle masterpiece of a response from Doucet, in response to yet another solicitation from Wolson as to whether the witness stands by the accuracy of the notes:

“These notes were written to be accurate”

10:27:41 AM
Wolson notes that, in his account of the second meeting with Schreiber, The Note-Taker outdid himself in detail — the resulting memo was “interactive”, with direct quotes from Schreiber *and* Doucet, as well as reiteration of statements made by Mulroney, as well. So, basically a handwritten liveblog, an hour after the event took place, which is an achievement that ITQ, at least, would find hard to match. Not only that, but as per Doucet, he “tries to match the tempo and tenure” of the conversation, which is tricky enough in realtime.

10:33:24 AM
Wolson plows on through the memo, and suggests that, according to the way the conversation unfolds, it almost seems as though Doucet was suggesting to Schreiber what answers he should give in any upcoming interviews. “You’re telling him what the deal is, aren’t you?” Not according to Doucet — he wouldn’t interpret it that way; he was just giving *his* interpretation of the Mirabel meeting, and the Manhattan mystery briefing. “Have I read it wrong,” Wolson wonders. No, just interpreted it wrong. Why, Wolson asks, was it Fred Doucet’s business what someone else was going to say under oath? “I was just trying to be helpful,” insists the witness.

Is it just me, or is this going worse for Doucet than the very worst exchanges between Wolson and Schreiber?

10:42:02 AM
More reenactment of the memo-to-file — which really is remarkable; it reads like a screenplay, and Wolson is giving a masterful peformance as both Schreiber *and* Doucet. Who, by the way, maintains that he recorded it accurately. “I stick with what I wrote.”

Wolson has a remarkable ability to fall into studied, strategic silence. The man has *timing*. And tempo!

10:45:01 AM
Okay, so yeah – back to the Manhattan meeting, or rather the memo-to-file thereof, for a moment; just for comparison, Wolson rereads the last bit of that account, which states that “KS” handed over an envelope for “fees and expenses”, yet in 2000, Doucet was able to write a *fully interactive* TV-movie-camera ready script.

10:49:48 AM
More line-by-line analysis of The Conversation — I’m not going to over every bit of it, since you can read whole memo yourself on the official site — it should be in the Doucet binder PDF, but I’ll put up a link later, I promise.

Finally, the bit I was waiting for — that incredibly odd bit at the end of the memo, where Doucet abruptly switches format to what appears to be an intelligence dump for a subsequent reader: the bit about Schreiber taking money from an interview. Doucet can’t recall – oh man, now I’m doing it – anyway, he has a “vague recollection” that it was a media outlet in Germany.

And – time for the midmorning break, although not until Oliphant has gotten the chance to ask a few questions about the witness’ remarkable sporadic recall. He, too, seems very interested in Doucet’s skill at “interactive” memo-writing, but we’ll probably here more about that when the hearing resumes at 11:15. See you then!

11:08:36 AM
I could – I won’t, don’t worry, but I *could* – devote an entire liveblog to Schreiber’s reaction to the testimony, and subsequent studying of the backing-and-forthing and gossip huddles within the media encampment; he’s not close enough to hear us, but he watches. It’s like being part of a naked mole rat colony at the zoo.

11:11:53 AM
Announcement: in an unprecedented development, the ITQ Dashing Haberdashery of the Day Award goes to — the Globe and Mail’s Greg MacArthur for his subversively dapper salmon/rose/navy/white quadruple stripe offering, which perfectly picks up the cherry brown leather of his shoes. It’s not a media conspiracy, I swear: It’s just the most interesting tie in the room.

11:13:58 AM
You know, I really wonder what the strategy will be for Doucet’s lawyer – who should, in theory, have the last crack at his client this afternoon. I’d think that he would want to undo some of the damage done to his credibility by Wolson over the last few hours, but who knows?

11:16:39 AM
And – we’re back, back to good old Tab 45, binder — I’ve lost track, actually — and the memo-to-file from January 2000. The Lavoie unpleasantness was, Wolson notes, an issue of some concern for Schreiber; given that, did Doucet ask Mulroney if there were “any areas he’d want covered” before the meeting? Doucet “doesn’t recall”; he thinks he “probably discussed” the testimony, and that “luncheon party” for Elmer MacKay in New York.

Were the two men – Schreiber and Mulroney – discussing a three year consultancy going forward from that day forward, Wolson wondered? That’s what Doucet thinks – and thought. As for the curious omission of any mention of Bear Head, it was, Doucet states again, “implicit.”

11:24:42 AM
When speaking of contracts for services allegedly rendered, isn’t “memorialized” a less troublesome word than “retroactive”? It makes it sound like that was the plan all along, and that the eventual document should come with some sort of plaque to mark the occasion.

11:25:55 AM
Oh, back to the future! Well, the much less distant past, at least, and Doucet’s interview with the inquiry this March, in which Wolson asked him if he’d discussed the issue of the mandate with Mulroney; at that time, Doucet said that he had told Mulroney, “as a friend”, that there ought to be some sort of document to “memorialize” it. Doucet also told Wolson that there was “a lot of ambiguity and innuendo” over the relationship between the two men; the media were all over it, and it would, in Doucet’s then-view, “come to no good.”

But this was in 1999, Wolson reminds Doucet — Schreiber wasn’t even *talking* to the media at that point, and Mulroney hadn’t disclosed any relationship at all. So how was Doucet so disarmingly prescient?

11:38:52 AM
Finally, the mandate letter, and the mysteriously appearing Schreiberglyphics. Wolson quizzes Doucet on whose annotations belong to whom — not just the words, but the little stars as well — and the other enhancements – or “markings”, as Wolson puts it, that appeared on the document. Were those applied at the meeting in question? “Absolutely,” says Doucet, although interestingly, he does allow that Schreiber might have left with a *blank* copy — as he has claimed.

11:43:31 AM
More word-by-word — almost pixel-by-pixel — analysis of the contract, which Doucet says was not intended to be a *legal* document, but a “memorialization” – but he denies utterly Schreiber’s claim that he ultimately refused to sign the document.

11:44:42 AM
Apparently, Mulroney didn’t even bother telling Doucet what figures he should use to fill in the blanks on the “memorialization” — Wolson seems somewhat puzzled by that, given Doucet’s claim to have the matter with both Mulroney *and* Schreiber before typing up the contract. When asked to identify yet another bit of writing, he suggests that it might be “his lawyer” — I’m assuming he meant the lawyer who represents him *now*, or during the Ethics committee, and isn’t suggesting that there was an actual lawyer involved in the drafting of the “memorialization”. Well, other than Mulroney himself, indirectly — he *is* a lawyer, after all. Oh, and Schreiber was a judge in Germany. No, really.

11:55:56 AM
Wolson finally finishes reading through the mandate letter, stopping periodically to check with Doucet whether his March 2009 testimony on the memorialization process was accurate – which it is. Then, it’s off to – oh, another of Doucet’s memos-to-file, this one detailing the entire Schreiber-Mulroney relationship, up until August 2000. Wolson points out a minor – but still, present – inconsistency in the memo, which Doucet tries to explain, although he has a bit more trouble when Wolson notes yet another omission of any reference to Bear Head. “That was a given,” Doucet stoutly insists.

This really is like testimony imagined by Escher — recollections of memos on meetings about retroactive mandates.

12:05:07 PM
Wolson notes that, in the August memo, Doucet speculated that he and Mulroney might be discovered as part of an eventual Schreiber extradiction hearing — which Doucet tries to suggest was already known; I’ve no idea, at this point, where we are in time, but Wolson is methodically going through the memo and pointing out all the areas where there is some diversion — a “straying”, as Doucet put it in a different context earlier — from the other accounts of the meeting — and the business relationship — and the memorialization process. As per Doucet.

12:11:05 PM
Pasta shoutout! The memo makes reference to “KS” pitching Doucet on the exciting world of international spaghetti marketing, as a vehicle for Mulroney, which – just like when this happened during the Ethics committee –  is suddenly making me crave fettucine. Wolson observes mildly that this was “an odd thing to remember”.

Wait, did I mention that there were no ten-minutes-after-the-fact notes from the after the memorialization meeting? Because there weren’t; there’s just the resulting mandate letter. Anyway, Doucet agrees, although actually, I’ve got to say that it would stick in *my* mind. Then again, as Schreiber would remind me, he – and they – live in a different world from the rest of us. A world of delicious, nutritious, low fat pasta that can make you rich while saving the world from poverty and obesity at once.

12:17:44 PM
Okay, I got distracted there, but we’re back to the diaries — Doucet’s diary — and a mysterious notation: “Rubric Fred”. Wolson wonders if Schreiber had an account for Doucet in Germany; if he did, Doucet didn’t know about it.

12:18:55 PM
One last question – really? Why, the morning has just *flown* by. Anyway, Wolson tries once again to get Doucet to explain *why* — even in a document like the mandate letter, specifically to be “squirreled away” in case it was needed — why, why, why was Bear Head never mentioned? It was, as per Doucet, the implicitness of it all. Indeed. This whole saga is about the implicitness of it all.

And — that’s it for Wolson, which means that it’s lunchtime. Anyone for pasta? Oh, first, Oliphant surveys counsel to determine whether anyone else has any questions; Pratte says he’ll be “extraordinarily brief”, if at all; Vicary will not; Houston will have questions — and Auger will have a few too, although not more than a half hour.

Which means we’re released for now, but not for the day. See you back here at 2pm!

1:54:35 PM
No basking in the sun during lunch hour today, alas: it’s still cold and dismal in the capital, and thanks to the judge’s edict of yesterday, it’s not exactly cosy in here, either. As one of my colleagues pointed out during the break, you could hang meat in here.

Anyway, we’re back – hi! – and it’s Richard Auger at the lectern; I’m not sure how they decide who goes first, but I hope multi-sided dice is involved.

1:59:00 PM
Auger wants to talk about the memo — oh, everyone wants to talk about the memo, which, thanks to Doucet’s skill at post-event reconstruction, really could soon be a major motion picture, or at least a respectable stage play. Auger has a few questions about Doucet’s sentence construction– specifically, the way he described what he understood Mulroney’s assigment to be.

The usual keywords appear: “watching brief”, “international”. His – Auger’s – point seems to be that there were two separate components to the services Mulroney would provide, and “international representations” is joined with “watching brief”. Given that, Auger suggests, these were *two different aspects* of the MBM mandate. Nowhere does it say this was exclusively international.

2:03:28 PM
GrammarFight! Doucet insists that the “and” was conjunctive. Bring on the expert English teacher witnesses.

A note that may or may not turn out to be relevant: Doucet did *not* type out the mandate letter — it was typed by someone else – not named, annoyingly – from longhand.

Doucet eventually pleads incomprehension of the question, but has to admit that, if he were wording it today, he would probably write that sentence in a different way.

On a similar note, Auger notes that, in order to sell internationally, “you need a plant built in Canada first”. Well, presumably, although I guess he could just sent Mulroney around the world as an Important Statesman Guy At Large.

2:09:16 PM
Auger asks whether Mulroney “approved” of the language in the mandate document — Doucet seems oddly reluctant to concur, but will only say that, as he recalls, the former prime minister said, “That’s fine, that’s okay” – and that was that – and that was based on Doucet’s “report” on the mandate letter, not actually seeing a copy of it himself, which as far as I know, didn’t happen until shortly before Mulroney’s appearance at the Ethics committee.

Doucet also has no knowledge of Mulroney’s decision to make a voluntary disclosure to Revenue Canada; he sticks to that even when Auger asks whether Mulroney suggested the figure on the mandate letter should be reduced to $220,000, so as not to “cause problems” with the agency.

2:14:26 PM
Ahh, a touchy question — despite the closeness of the friendship between Doucet and Mulroney, the latter never came to the former to tell him that he might have a problem vis a vis money received from Karlheinz Schreiber. Sharper than a serpent’s tooth and all that.

Continuing along with the mandate letter, Auger goes back over the afternoon when Doucet and Schreiber met to discuss the document; he wonders first whether there was a third, blank mandate — not to Doucet’s recollection — and asks if he *has* a blank sheet, which he doesn’t. He has the one he was working on; the second was a blank sheet that may or may not have been taken by Schreiber when he left, and nobody signed anything. I — just don’t know what more to say about that, and apparently, neither does Auger, so he moves on to …

2:21:52 PM
The Manhattan meeting, with special guests Elmer MacKay and his new wife, the Schreibers, and – Fred Doucet, who “presumed” that Schreiber wouldn’t have any problem with him sitting in during the hour or so that he and Mulroney were discussing his work on Schreiber’s behalf. Doucet, Auger notes, has said he was “impressed” with how thorough the presentation was, and he agrees, although one has to wonder whether there has ever been any point in time at which Doucet was unimpressed with Mulroney’s performance.

2:25:19 PM
Hey, it’s the waiver from the one year cooling-off period that Doucet carried through the revolving door from government to the wilds of the private sector, although he still doesn’t remember actually *asking* for one.

It turns out that the only reason Auger wanted to bring that up was to ask whether the question of cooling off had ever arose vis a vis Mulroney’s departure from public life. No, it didn’t — and that’s all from Auger, apparently.

2:28:33 PM
No questions from Team Mulroney or the Attorney General, which brings us, finally, to Doucet’s very own lawyer, Robert Houston, who manages to sound like he’s treating his own client as a hostile witness as he snaps his very first question: “Mr. Doucet, when were born?” Pause. “What year were you born?”

I’m telling you, this lawyer fascinates me. There must be something about him that makes him a good get for a party to a high level inquiry, but I just can’t get past his weirdly abrasive style.

Anyway, he points out that Doucet, a good Cape Breton boy, would have “talked up” the Bear Head project any chance he got — which, after a moment, Doucet cheerfully confirms — and as a senior government official, and later businessmen, he made lots and lots of phone calls – to ministers, politicians, other businessmen, that sort of thing – and sent out many letters. He wouldn’t remember *all* those letters, would he? No, he wouldn’t – not even most.

2:32:32 PM
Uh, that was awkward. Asked about his heart condition, Fred Doucet just sort of – zoned out. It was unexpected and dramatic enough to force an immediate break, and even now that the court has momentarily adjourned – will someone *please turn off the mic* – he’s just sitting there.

Back in a few minutes, I guess.

2:46:00 PM
Well, we’re not back yet — and honestly, I doubt we’ll be up for much longer once the inquiry reconvenes; presumably Houston isn’t going to risk another outburst like that — but — oh wait, now we are. Okay, as you were.

The judge reminds Doucet that he can always let the judge know if he needs a break, and hands the floor back over to Houston, who notes – somewhat stiffly – that he knows this is “emotional”, but asks again when the surgery took place.

Doucet, who seems much better now, thankfully, tells his lawyer that it was 21 years ago, and Houston moves on swiftly to Doucet’s departure from government, and his subsequent business dealings with Schreiber. I’m not sure if there’s anything new here, really – a lobby registration by Doucet for one of Schreiber’s companies, and that’s about it.

2:50:30 PM
Ahh, the $90,000 invoice that Doucet just can’t seem to recall. It reads “re: professional services”, the lawyer notes – *not* “professional services *rendered*”, which is how the other invoices appear. In other words, it could, in fact, be a retainer.

2:52:30 PM
Apparently, Gerry Doucet’s health is so poor that, as per Houston, “you cannot carry on a conversation with him”; the other two payees – Ouellette and Moores – are dead, so there was no one with whom Doucet could check on those invoices.

Also, Doucet and Frank Moores, contrary to Schreiber’s claim, never had a “spat” — only over who caught the biggest fish during their river trips.

2:56:15 PM
More about fishing trips, meetings with Mulroney and various parties to discuss Bear Head — it was normal, Houston asserts and Doucet confirms, for him to be present during such conversations. He – Doucet – wasn’t aware of the Harrington Lake meeting, but he does recall that Mirabel represented a happy moment, since Mulroney was about to enter the private sector, and “here was a client.” Yeah, I’m sure that’s exactly how he looks back at it now.

3:00:25 PM
Ooh, I was sort of zoning out there as Houston was firing questions at Doucet over the first of the three letters tabled yesterday, but then the judge – who is clearly paying more attention than ITQ at the moment – interrupts him to ask whether he was suggesting that the letter in question – which Houston categorized as a “non-report” – stated that Doucet was being asked to contact Moores; it was the opposite, in fact. The letter stated that Doucet had been expected to hear from Moores, which is quite different, and also entirely accurate. Houston acknowledges the mistake, and whips through the rest of the documents, which doesn’t take long, since Doucet doesn’t remember anything about them. Even though he ostensibly wrote them.

3:04:10 PM
As for the third letter – the one with the information about units being purchased by Air Canada – Houston points out that there is nothing remarkable about the airline releasing information on its fleet. Yes, but — oh, never mind. This is Houston’s re-direct, I won’t spoil it.

3:05:44 PM
Houston now tackles the “unexpected, uninvited” appearance of Fred Doucet at the MacKay wedding lunch/Mulroney debriefing; not surprisingly, Doucet denies that he was an unwelcome guest. He also doesn’t recall Mulroney or Schreiber saying anything about lobbying activities inside Canada.

3:08:36 PM

Note-taking – check. Handwriting on mandate letter – check.

Ooh! After plumbing the depths of the Doucet archives, the original copy of the mandate letter has surfaced, and is now in the hands of commission counsel! I’ve been wondering about that — hopefully, they’ll let the media take a gander at it.

That’s it for Houston, but Wolson has one last area for re-direct — he wants to know more about the June 3 meeting, which was marked by an official Commons photograph.

3:12:19 PM
Is there any reason why Doucet should not be excused? No, apparently not – so he does. Since there are no other witnesses, that means we’re excused too — til tomorrow, when Kim Campbell and Perrin Beatty take the stand. That gets underway at 9:30 am tomorrow, and we’ll be there — with bells on.